‘Who’s got the kids?’ is a question I get asked a lot as a mother who also works outside of the home. The other day reflecting on this with Nick, my husband, I discovered that he is never asked that question as a working dad. We have encountered many a raised eyebrow from others about our marriage choices and bringing up children. To us the way we do things seems the most natural fit for us and our family. We do not seek to impose our values onto other people’s relationships, but often find others are keen to point out to us that women should be the primary child-carer and men should be the main breadwinner. From the outset of married life, and even before, we chose to do things as equals, seeing no roles prescribed by gender, except me carrying, having and breast-feeding children. We are out and out egalitarians.
Egalitarian marriage is not about role reversal. It is not about women, rather than men, wearing the trousers – it is possible to both wear trousers – or for neither to (which is a lot of fun!). We believe marriage can be a partnership without one person being ‘in-charge’. Certainly for us we have had to make a lot of decisions throughout our 11 years of marriage. Little choices, like what to have for dinner, to big decisions about having children, moving house and changing jobs. In all of these we have never come to a stalemate whereby we needed someone to ‘pull rank’. Sometimes decisions have taken a lot of time and discussion – I think that’s really healthy for us. We don’t vote on every little thing to ensure consensus, but we talk. We know each other well, love each other well and seek to enable each other to flourish.
For us sharing bringing up children, tackling the housework and pursuing what God has called us to are collaborative activities. We intentionally seek to find a balance between who does what. In everyday life that means we all pitch in. We both work and so we both do stuff at home to try and tackle the overwhelming tide of housework which is inevitable with two children! Our hope is that we can, in all this, be following those things God has called us to. We also hope we can broaden our children’s horizons as to the possibilities life presents. Should they choose more traditional roles that’s ok, but we want them to see that gender does not limit them or their dreams. We hope we show others around that it is possible to have a marriage that doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes about nagging wives, neglectful fathers and men and women being alien species.
Marriage is such a beautiful thing. Without being smug we are entirely blessed to have each other. Marriage like this, that seeks to pull together and still push each other on, takes intentionality. It takes thought. It takes grace and acceptance of mess. But it is fun, and it is rewarding and it hopefully enables others around us to glimpse something at the very heart of the trinity – unity, collaboration, equality and love.
This article is part of a special series commissioned by guest editor Claire Rush to celebrate and remember International Women’s Day on 8 March.